A Sermon Preached at The Federated Church, Weatherford, OK on Luke 24:13-33
There’s a country song by Miranda Lambert that I became familiar with several years ago. I loved when it first came on the radio because it reminded me so much of the small town in Georgia where Kevin grew up and we were married. Maybe the words of, “Famous in a Small Town” might remind you of what it’s like to live in Weatherford.
I dreamed of going to Nashville
Put my money down and placed my bet
But I just got the first buck of the season
I made the front page of the Turner “Town Gazette”
Tyler and Casey broke up
It ended pretty quietly
We heard he was caught red-handed with her mama
That’s just what they let us all believe
Every last one, route one, rural heart’s got a story to tell
Every grandma, in law, ex girlfriend
Maybe knows you just a little too well
Whether you’re late for church or you’re stuck in jail
Hey words gonna get around
Everybody dies famous in a small town.
And if any of these words call to mind experiences you’ve had, then you’re right on track for understanding the mood of our gospel lesson for this morning. For in a small town outside of Jerusalem, word had gotten around town and somebody named Jesus just died famous.
And so, on Easter evening, it was all the talk at the local gathering places. It was all the talk at the village market. It was all the talk as the kids began to stir again after they’ve were cooped up by their parents during the Passover festival for days.
It was all the talk as two men, one who we know as Cleopas and the other without a name travel on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus had just died and there was so much gossip to sort through!
But, as is with any good gossip, you don’t know exactly what to do with what you hear.Whose word do you believe the most?
And it all got all the murkier when another traveler started walking beside them. He overhears their conversation and approaches them with the question, “What are you discussing with each other while you were walking along?”
The travelers having no idea that Jesus—the man who had supposedly died—is among them. So Cleopas answers him saying, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
Or in other words, “Have you not been on Jerusalem’s Facebook page? Didn’t you see the nightly news? Have you not read the newspaper? EVERYONE knows what happened to Jesus . . .” the man who was mighty in deed and word before God and all people, the man that we hoped would be the one who would redeem Israel” but is no longer with us.
Oh, kind sir, do you live under a rock??
It’s a great sketch for a comedy show, isn’t it?
But Jesus plays along, listening carefully until it was his turn to speak. He’s got a lot to say, though not what you might think. Jesus does not tell the men who is. But, rather, he begins his teaching session.
I can imagine that these two disciples were pretty smart guys. The traditions of ancient scripture meant something to them. They’d heard these stories before. And they were all ears!
He walks these two through all the prophecies of old beginning with Moses. He carefully outlines for them how the prophecies foretold the coming a Messiah who would endure suffering and death but would rise again. He enlivens their hopes with the joyous possibilities that Jesus could be alive!
Just like some of us might feel going to a convention or a conference in our chosen profession, surrounded by thousands of people who think and engage the world like us, so these disciples were “geeking out” on Jesus. They could not get enough of what he was saying! Being with such a wise teacher with such a commanding presence was just so sweet! They wanted to learn as much as they could. So that when they finally reached their destination, they didn’t want their night with Jesus to end.
I know the feeling don’t you? Being engulfed in a conversation that you wish could go on forever or at least late into the night.
As for the disciples, they try to come up with whatever they can to keep things going longer! Verse 29 tells us that “they urged [Jesus] strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us’” And so Jesus did.
He stays for supper and joins them for a meal because what resurrection brought was conversation.
Conversation that was beyond the superficial stuff we normally fill the airwaves with the most—
“I am making chicken for dinner with a new recipe I just saw online” and “I bought a really nice pair of shoes today on sale.”
Conservation that was beyond the stuff we talk about when we think we’re talking about something more important—
“My son is was offered a new job last week that will give his family more financial security” and “Retirement really does suit me; I like not having to get up early in the mornings.”
Conversation that was beyond even the stuff we talk about in religious circles—
“We need to pray for so and so who is sick” and “I really liked that Bible study. Can we do something like that again?”
No, the conversation between the two disciples and Jesus that day was a heart to heart. It was conversation that touched tender points of discouragement, dreams and fears within their souls. It was a conversation that they needed answers on and needed answers now. For their beloved teacher had died and nothing would ever feel the same without him.
So, what really did all of this news around town mean?Jesus gave answers that were profound and like none they’d ever heard. And it was a lot to take in—so much so that they were in the dark about the LIGHT walking alongside of them for most of the talk until . . .
POOF! They all sat down together at the table, broke bread (which has a lot of unspoken allusions to our communion meal) and verse 31 tells us that “Their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
Jesus vanishes—for his conversation task was over.
And we see the significance of what just occurred as the disciples respond to what has just happened to them.
They say: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
I resonate so deeply with this verse of scripture because I feel so much it’s what my work as pastor/ preacher is all about. If I am going to be a leader who helps a congregation have an experience with Jesus then I’ll know that I’ve done my job if they reflect back to me a version of your “hearts burning within you” story while I’ve been teaching.
I also resonate with me because I feel my own faith journey is rooted in conversation. I am who I am because of the countless folks I’ve encountered in my life who felt enough conviction about their faith to talk to me about it.
And in everyday life, when you and I break bread together or enjoy a cup of coffee and I can share my stories with you and be heard with empathy and you can share your stories with me and be heard with compassion—then to me this is a Road to Emmaus experience. We both learn something new for the journey. Why? Because Jesus is present! And what’s better than that?
But as much as I share my excitement for conversation with you this morning, I also know that for some of you it’s not your style.
You speak when spoken to. You share your deepest thoughts to someone maybe once a year. And a room full of people having conversation about a book or a faith experience makes you want to run for the hills and not come back till the room is cleared out. (And I affirm you though I might not understand you as much as I do the sharers).
But, if we are going to be Easter people, if we are going to be people—all of us who are following Jesus and experiencing Jesus’ resurrection power along the way, then the question is who are we going to talk to about it?
Because my friends, when resurrection comes to your life and mine, and I mean, mind boggling, I can’t believe this is happening, I never thought this was possible kind of new life resurrection, then you can’t NOT talk about it. It’s just too good news to share!
Jesus was alive and he couldn’t not converse with these disciples about the good news!
The disciples loved Jesus and they couldn’t not converse with one another about all that Jesus had meant in their lives!
And for all of us who’ve had a resurrection experience, we can’t not talk about it with each other.
When I was in Christian History class in seminary, one particular saint story caught my attention and it came from the life of Teresa of Avila.
Teresa, if you don’t know about her was a nun within the 15th century. Her writings like “The Inner Castle” make famous her mystical experiences of God in prayer. Teresa is a “straight from the hip” kind of saint especially on matters of prayer and what being in the presence of God feels like. In her time, people thought she was crazy sometimes because she endured great bouts of depression and sadness. But regardless of what others said about her “resurrection experiences” she was authentic voice during a difficult time in the church. She eventually became known as a great church reformer, though not given any recognition for such during her lifetime.
And this is one of her famous prayers: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Isn’t it just beautiful?
Though we might be afraid to talk about what God is doing in our lives, Christ has no body now in this place and time than yours.
Though we might not want to be perceived as the “overly religious one” in a group as the one who stops to pray when something good happens, Christ has no hands on earth but yours.
Though we might not want to offend someone by bringing up the good news of what is happening in our church to someone who hasn’t been here in a while, Christ has no feet on earth but yours.
And I say all of this with an understanding of the context where I am preaching. This is Oklahoma. Christianity is everywhere. People pray before meals at restaurants all the time. People talk about this and that event with their church all the time. People quote Bible verses in places of secular business all the time.
I’m not talking about any of that.
I’m talking about the stuff of our lives that is deep and profound. The stuff that keeps you and me up at night. The worries that trouble our souls and make us want to weep—all the stuff that the disciples had at the forefront of their minds on the road to Emmaus that day.
When that stuff bubbles up and when God does a work in you or you’re desperate for God to change something in you, then you’ve got to talk about it.
Resurrection is not a silent way of life. It’s a vocal one.
It’s a way of life that comes not only in words but gestures of the heart, gestures like invitations to dinner. Gestures like long meals unrushed toward what comes next. Gestures like speaking truth when it wells up in our throats, “Were not our hearts burning within us while we talked?”
So, my friends, Christ has no body on earth but yours—so if we want our message of God’s love and acceptance for all to spread, then let’s start talking!
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! We’ve got a great story to tell as it unfolds in you and me!